December 8, 2014

“Marketers should ignore customers.” Well, that pokes a hornet’s nest.

A number of readers were upset when I challenged the dogma that “customers are your best prospects.” That cliché is routinely accepted as reasonable, but is in fact lazy and limited thinking, particularly for marketers.

If you’re a marketer, prospects should be your focus. Customers, a distant second. Ignore might be too strong a word, so think “benign redirection.” Devote your energy and skills to studying people who do not yet know, understand or value your brand.

hipster darwin

Adapt and evolve, as Hipster Darwin might remind us.

Yes, profitable business depends on customer satisfaction, so it’s vital that companies make customer experiences successful. Keeping customers happy is one key to slow and steady growth. User experience (UX) is the job of the CEO, all salespeople, all operations people – everybody including delivery people, window washers, and whoever answers the phone.

Marketers, not so much. Sure, there are customers who need to learn more about you, who need to be induced to repurchase – but (with your help) Sales and Ops can and should handle that. Can’t they?

If you ask, “Does this really apply to my product/service/cause/candidate?” The answer will be yes/yes/yes/yes. Fortune 100 or Fortune 100000, assuming the organization is large enough to avoid lumping sales and marketing together. Small firms may be forced to assign both roles to the same person, but that’s something they should outgrow ASAP.

Eyes on the prize, friends: Prospects differ from customers, and greatly outnumber them. They’re the only opportunity for exponential growth. Insight into your potential customers is such a leveraged value that you can not double sales without it.

There are two reasons brands follow that “close to the customer” mythology. First, it offers a simple answer, involving people easy to find and understand. Second, wishful thinking pretends prospects are just about like customers, a strategy that crash-lands nine times out of five.

Is it time to re-think your mission?